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Holden Equinox 2019 review: LT long term

How will two humans and their four-legged child, Poppy the corgi, go in the Holden Equinox LT?

Andrew Chesterton is spending six months with the Holden Equinox LT, to see how it suits his family's needs.

Part 1: April 18, 2019

It's never made clear in the Marvel Universe where exactly Peter Parker's famous Spider Senses strike him first, but having now spent some time behind the wheel of the Holden Equinox, I think I've got an idea...

There's no delicate way to approach this tooshie subject, but I think it might be in his bottom.

While plenty of car makers alert you to danger with a series of annoying squawks, Holden has taken a far more personal approach with the Equinox, with the warnings arriving via a series of rumbles in the diver's seat; these gentle vibrations that alert you to slow traffic ahead, or something crossing at the rear.

And I bloody love it. No more cutting off the audio to alert me to a vehicle roughy 8000 metres ahead, and one that I have more chance of running over and asteroid than I do colliding with. Instead, a gentle bum rumble tells you all you need to know about what's going on outside the car.

  • There's much joy to be found behind the wheel of the Equinox. There's much joy to be found behind the wheel of the Equinox.
  • I'm driving the well-equipped LT ($36,990) mid-spec trim. I'm driving the well-equipped LT ($36,990) mid-spec trim.
  • The safety kit offers blind-spot monitoring, a rear-view camera and parking sensors. The safety kit offers blind-spot monitoring, a rear-view camera and parking sensors.
  • Holden has taken a far more personal approach with the Equinox. Holden has taken a far more personal approach with the Equinox.
  • For us, the only child in our life is a cat-sized corgi who might well be the most spoiled animal in existence. For us, the only child in our life is a cat-sized corgi who might well be the most spoiled animal in existence.

It's not the only surprising thing I've discovered about this American-inspired (it wears a Chevrolet badge in the States) SUV in my first month of pseudo-ownership. But at the top of that list is just how easy and enjoyable I've found the experience to date.

Holden's SUV products are often overlooked in favour of its Japanese and Korean rivals, but there's much joy to be found behind the wheel of the Equinox - especially in this well-equipped LT ($36,990) mid-spec trim.

For one, the 2.0-litre turbocharged engine sounds terribly underwhelming on paper, but its 188kW and 353Nm feels surprisingly ample in shifting its bulk around the city. Likewise, the nine-speed automatic goes about its business with a minimum of fuss, too.

The real surprise, though, is the level of equipment on offer. There's a nav-equipped 8.0-inch touchscreen (albeit one with that might be the worst graphics we've seen for some time), along with 18-inch alloys, dual-zone climate and heated front seats.

But the real boon is the standard safety kit, led as it is by the bum rumble, but also offers blind-spot monitoring, a rear-view camera, parking sensors, rear cross-traffic alert, AEB, lane departure warning and lane keep assist, six airbags an dual ISOFIX attachment points in the rear.

So that's the good, now for the not-so-impressive points. The gearbox might be among the slowest in existence when it comes from shifting from Drive to Reverse and back again. Which means that, if you're doing one of those cheeky three-point turns (you know, those ones that require a bit of fleet-footedness), it feels like it is taking an absolute lifetime to engage a new direction.

And the other issue? Well, that's the pain at the pump. We've travelled well over 300kms in the time that we've had the car, and to date the fuel reading is glued to 14.0-litres per hundred kilometres. The overall rating, covering the car's 1668kms, is lower, hovering at around 11.1L/100kms.

  • The 2.0-litre turbocharged engines 188kW and 353Nm feels surprisingly ample. The 2.0-litre turbocharged engines 188kW and 353Nm feels surprisingly ample.
  • There's a nav-equipped 8.0-inch touchscreen. There's a nav-equipped 8.0-inch touchscreen.
  • It comes with 18-inch alloys. It comes with 18-inch alloys.
  • So how will the Equinox fare as as taxi for our unconventional brood? Time will tell. But so far, so good. So how will the Equinox fare as as taxi for our unconventional brood? Time will tell. But so far, so good.

The other thing I should mention here, given as we're getting to know each other, is that mine is not the conventional SUV family. For us, the only child in our life is a cat-sized corgi who might well be the most spoiled animal in existence.

She rides in a car seat in the back (raised so she can see out the windows - I mentioned spoiled, didn't I?), from which she explodes hair across the backseat so effectively its like someone has detonated Cher back there.

So how will the Equinox fare as as taxi for our unconventional brood? Time will tell. But so far, so good.

Acquired: March 2019
Distance travelled this month: 230kms
Odometer: 1668kms
Average fuel consumption for March: 14.0L/100

Part 2: May 1 2019

Having spent the vast majority of my adult life in and around cars, I've seen just about everything you can imagine spilled in the cabin. 

Coffee? Check. Soft drink? Check. Nail polish (now banned from the car)? Check. Ice-cream? Check. Toddler vomit? Also, sadly, check.

But perhaps nothing is quite so gross, nor as stubborn to remove, as the viciously viscous drool that flies from our little dog's mouth after a run in the park. Somehow the droplets continue to leap off her tongue long after she's been loaded into the car for the drive home, flying around the cabin like someone has set off the world's most gross sprinkler in the backseat.

Perhaps nothing is quite so gross as the drool that flies from our little dog's mouth after a run in the park. Perhaps nothing is quite so gross as the drool that flies from our little dog's mouth after a run in the park.

Which does bring me to one obvious weakness in the LT's modern-family credentials, with this specification of Equinox arriving with fabric seats front and back, seemingly designed to absorb spills and stains before you're any chance of getting to them. 

To get easy-wipe leather-trimmed seats, you need to upgrade to the LTZ, which includes other niceties too (like a powered boot), but also increases the asking price to $39,990. And to be honest, after spending the better part of an hour scrubbing the fabric in the backseat with a dampened tea-towel, it's probably money well spent for anyone with kids - whether they have four legs or two.

In good news, after a more varied driving this month, the average fuel use has begun to drop. I was hovering at about 14 litres per hundred kilometres at the time of the last Equinox instalment, but after some 345km over the past four weeks, that number has fallen to 13.1 litres.

Now to be fair, that's miles away from Holden's claimed 8.2L/100km, but at least we're edging closer. The Equinox, by the way, demands 95RON unleaded fuel.

  • After more varied driving this month, the average fuel use has begun to drop. After more varied driving this month, the average fuel use has begun to drop.
  • Our most recent adventure was a mostly freeway cruise to the red-dirt of the Wingello State Forest. Our most recent adventure was a mostly freeway cruise to the red-dirt of the Wingello State Forest.
  • The Wigello State Forest is a stunning, pine-forested haven for dog-friendly walks. The Wigello State Forest is a stunning, pine-forested haven for dog-friendly walks.
  • As front-wheel-drive SUV, any serious off-road driving is ruled out. As front-wheel-drive SUV, any serious off-road driving is ruled out.
  • Holden made short work of the corrugated and loose dirt roads of Wingello, proving that a bit of ground clearance goes a long way. Holden made short work of the corrugated and loose dirt roads of Wingello, proving that a bit of ground clearance goes a long way.

But our most recent adventure - a mostly freeway cruise to the red-dirt of the Wingello State Forest (a stunning, pine-forested haven for dog-friendly walks, and the very place you see in these pictures this month) saw the Equinox averaging around 8.5L/100km, so we'd expect the number to fall below 13 by the time of out next instalment.

This Equinox might be a front-wheel-drive SUV, thus ruling out any serious four-wheel driving, but plucky Holden made short work of the bumpy, corrugated and largely loose dirt roads of Wingello, proving that - for light off-roading - a little bit of ground clearance goes a long way, and that front-wheel drive is really more than enough for the vast majority of owners.

Elsewhere this month, the Equinox's carrying credentials have come to the fore, with the seemingly endless procession of expensive handy jobs that come with home ownership demanding trip after trip to the local hardware store. 

Now if you look at the side profile of the Equinox, you'll notice it looks a lot like a seven-seater, what with that extension over the rear tyres that looks designed to carry a third row of seats. It doesn't, of course, but what it does do is bump up the cargo capacity of the boot space. 

If you look at the side profile of the Equinox, it looks a lot like a seven-seater. If you look at the side profile of the Equinox, it looks a lot like a seven-seater.

There's a sizeable 846 litres on offer, which - as noted in our review of the Equinox - beats the Mazda CX-5, VW Tiguan, Nissan X-Trail and Mitsubishi Outlander

More than that, it's a genuinely useable perk of SUV ownership that you can - and will - take advantage of, whether you have kids or not. 

The question is; do the practicality perks outweigh the dynamic negatives? That's exactly what we'll be exploring next month.

Acquired: March 2019

Distance travelled this month: 345km

Odometer: 2013km

Average fuel consumption for April: 13.1L/100

Part 3: June 12 2019

Let’s start with an admission. I’ve never been a fan of SUVs. 

Well, that’s not entirely true. I totally get the need for some SUVs. You know, the big and rugged ones that carry people over rocks and up mountains. Or the ones that tow giant boats or caravans. Or even the ones that carry seven (or more) people around the place in something that looks a little bit like comfort, provided you don't get too close.

But it’s these five-seat, front-wheel-drive ones - ones like this very Equinox LT - that I’ve never been overly fond of. To be honest, I’ve just never understood what purpose they serve. 

For mine, the humble station wagon (an endangered species these days, I know, but one that’s still being propped up by a handful of persevering European brands) can do everything a FWD SUV can do, whether it’s carrying stuff or people, only better. And it felt like trading off car-like driving dynamics for a higher seating position just wasn’t a fair trade.

And to be honest, when I first took delivery of my Holden Equinox LT long-termer, I really wasn’t expecting that opinion to change. 

But then, something strange happened. Despite this LT trim being exclusively front-wheel drive - and thus no more capable off-road than something like a Ford Focus Active - merely having the hulking American (though its built in Mexico) SUV parked out the front has stirred some long-dormant adventurous spirit lurking in deep in our little family's genes. 

Over the past 12 weeks, we have taken off on five weekends away, stuffing the 846-litre boot with bags and food, popping our dog in the backseat, and setting off in search of distant hikes and bush walks.

To put that into some sort of perspective, that's exactly five more than the proceeding 12 weeks. The Equinox - urban focused or no - has proven something of an inspiration, then.

The Equinox easily takes on dirt roads. The Equinox easily takes on dirt roads.

At least part of its appeal is the fact that, while no dynamic powerhouse, it is perfectly suited to highway kilometres, which has also had a positive impact on its fuel consumption. 

Over the past 950-odd kays, we’ve returned a fuel figure of 10.8 litres per hundred kilometres. All that freeway driving has dragged down the Equinox’s long-term average, too, with our car having travelled a total 3645km, while sipping 11.2 litres per hundred kilometres.

The car has an increased ground clearance, which sits at 175mm. The car has an increased ground clearance, which sits at 175mm.

The 2.0-litre turbocharged engine produces 188kW and 353Nm, which aren’t life-changing numbers, but its more than enough to propel the Equinox along the freeway, while the nine-speed automatic keeps the revs down and the cabin calm.

And when you do get to you destination, you can turn onto dirt roads with care-free abandon, knowing that the combination of increased ground clearance (175mm, which isn't segment best, but is more than the 105mm you’ll get on a Commodore) and the chunky rubber wrapped around the 18-inch alloys will keep you (hopefully) scrape free.

The Equinox has chunky rubber wrapped around the 18-inch alloys. The Equinox has chunky rubber wrapped around the 18-inch alloys.

And so there you have it. The Equinox has almost made a believer of me. Or at least, has convinced me that not all front-wheel-drive SUVs are without purpose…

Acquired: March 2019

Distance travelled this month: 945km

Odometer: 3645km

Average fuel consumption for May: 10.6L/100 (measured at the pump)

Part 4: June 30, 2019

Street bounty. Gutter treasure. Rescued rubbish. Call it what you will, hard-rubbish collection nights are an absolute treasure trove of discarded wonders just waiting to be scooped up from the footpath before the trucks arrive to cart it off to the tip. 

I'm (not that) proud to report that I'm a huge fan of this once-a-month-or-so street lottery, and I've been known to prowl the streets for an hour or more looking for unloved treasures just waiting to be re-homed and restored. 

If you ask me, rescuing something destined for the tip to give it a second lease on life is doing the planet a huge environmental favour, reducing unnecessary waste one tattered coffee table at a time.

 I'm a huge fan of the once-a-month-or-so street lottery, saving one tattered coffee table at a time. I'm a huge fan of the once-a-month-or-so street lottery, saving one tattered coffee table at a time.

But then, if you ask my wife, she'll probably tell you I'm just cheap. Obviously I'd prefer you ask me... 

Anyway, my point is that, such is the life of an automotive journalist, that it's almost impossible to know what vehicle will be parked out the front of my house at any given time.

From two-seat convertibles to hulking seven-seat SUVs - and even the odd commercial van or two - the small stretch of bitumen outside my house has been (briefly) home to so many new cars my neighbours are convinced I moonlight as a drug dealer. 

But while variety is the spice of my automotive life, it's also a deal-breaker when it comes to sidewalk shopping on hard rubbish nights. There is no use falling in love with a lightly smelly wardrobe when you know there's no way you're going to be fitting it into the pencil case-sized boot of your Mazda MX-5.

And it's here that the Holden Equinox has ridden to the rescue, with its capacious boot - especially with the seats down - happy to accept any pavement prize I should stumble across when out scouring the neighbourhood.

Our child is furry and four-legged, and so doesn't require much. Our child is furry and four-legged, and so doesn't require much.

Sure, most families will talk of boot space as it relates to prams, shopping or the eleventy-billion bags seemingly required for a three-day weekend at the beach. But our child is furry and four-legged, and so doesn't require much in the way of outfit changes or overnight bags.

Instead, the boot of the Equinox has been used mostly as a transport tool for the never-ending renovations that plague our home. And, far more excitingly, as the perfect carrier for the old furniture and assorted junk I've collected from street corners.

My most recent find was a delightfully (my wife says disgustingly) retro outdoor table that - despite its large circular top and bulky legs - rolled straight into the back of the Equinox without so much as a fabric tear.

My most recent find was a delightfully retro outdoor table. My most recent find was a delightfully retro outdoor table.

That's at least partly because the Equinox is rather big for its segment. We've said this before, I know, but viewed side-on, it looks for all money like a seven-seater, what with the kind of atrium that extends from the rear of the car. But it's not, of course.

On a pure measurement basis, the Equinox stretches 4652mm in length, 1843mm in width and 1661mm in height. That's longer than a CX-5 (4550mm) and a RAV4 (4600mm), and makes it the perfect partner for my late-night shopping trips.

More so, the boot is plenty spacious, too, with Holden claiming 846 litres with the rear seat in place, and a whopping 1798 litres with the backseat folded flat. There's a ton of leg- and headroom in the backseat, too, and two ISOFIX attachment points, one in each of the rear window seats. 

The boot is spacious with Holden claiming 846 litres that grows to 1798 litres with the backseat folded. The boot is spacious with Holden claiming 846 litres that grows to 1798 litres with the backseat folded.

It might seem a tiny thing, but it's just another way the Equinox has worked its way into our lives. 

Like a 4WD owner who doesn't often take his car off-road, but who loves the fact that he can if he wants to, I've grown to adore the fact that there's almost no piece of gutter gold too large to squeeze into the back of the Equinox, even if my hard-rubbish shopping opportunities are few and far between.

  • The Equinox stretches 4652mm in length. The Equinox stretches 4652mm in length.
  • It's 1843mm in width. It's 1843mm in width.
  • ...and 1661mm in height. ...and 1661mm in height.

Bigger is better when it comes to lugging stuff around, and on that front, the Equinox shines.

Acquired: March 2019

Distance travelled this month: 1040km

Odometer: 4685km

Average fuel consumption for June: 11.2/100

Part 5: August 13, 2019

And so my time with the Equinox draws quickly to a close. Not time to say goodbye just yet, perhaps, but the clock ticks ever louder, as thought we're trapped in some kind of automotive Edgar Allan Poe poem. 

It's about now that I should be thinking of some grandiose farewell speech about the profound impact the Equinox has had on my life, and on the lives of my small family, too. 

But the truth is, I have no such opus to share. Instead, Holden's plucky SUV has blended so seamlessly into our lives that we genuinely feel like we own it.

So much so, in fact, that I just washed it. And I mean properly washed it. Outside, inside, vacuuming, wiping down every visible surface, removing the smudgy fingerprints from the touchscreen, the lot.

The Holden's Equinox has blended so seamlessly into our lives that we genuinely feel like we own it.
The Holden's Equinox has blended so seamlessly into our lives that we genuinely feel like we own it.

It's had such a bath that you almost can't tell it's housed my dog for the better part of half a year. Though to be fair, the emphasis there is on the almost.

Sure, there might well be a stray dog hair or two floating the cabin, but at least I now know that my earlier fears about the fabric seats being impossible to keep clean have proved misguided. Turns out, a well-dampened chamois and some elbow grease is all that's needed to scrub them back to as-new condition.

So perhaps forget what I said a couple of months back about springing for the LTZ trim ($39,990), which adds leather seats, as well as a powered boot; the $36,990 LT trim is actually pretty easy to keep clean. 

I've mentioned this before, I know, but after several months with the Equinox, the one feature I've come to appreciate more than any other is its 8.0-inch touchscreen. Not so much the clunky, old-school interface, but the fact that it's the perfect vessel for mirroring your iPhone via Apple CarPlay.

The 8.0-inch media screen has an old-school interface and is clunky to use. The 8.0-inch media screen has an old-school interface and is clunky to use.

The operation has been utterly seamless, and my wife and I agree it's become a true deal-breaking feature in any future new-car purchase. Being able to abandon crappy radio for Podcasts and playlists - not to mention access to always up-to-date mapping - is a serious luxury, and one we now can't live without. 

Perhaps most tellingly, though, if it really was my name on the registration papers, I'm left thinking that would be no bad thing. 

To be clear, there's no one element (save perhaps the boot storage and clever safety warning system that trades the squawks for a subtle vibration in the driver's seat) that will have you singing its praises to neighbours and friends at your next barbecue. 

Instead, it's what the Equinox represents in total: practical, comfortable, stress-free motoring that that feels workman-like and dependable, if not overly dynamic. 

And so it's on to our final month together, and to our farewell video piece that you'll soon find on this website. So please do stay tuned for that. It will have a dog in it. 

Acquired: March 2019

Distance travelled this month: 939km

Odometer: 5624km

Average fuel consumption for July: 11.5L/100 (measured at the pump

Part 6: September 20, 2019

And so it’s come to this; the final dispatch from the driver’s seat of the Holden Equinox, which has spent the past six months parked out the front of my house. 

Well, it wasn’t parked the entire six months. It did a whole lot of driving, too. Which puts me about in the box seat to spill the beans on what it’s like to own Holden’s mid-size SUV competitor, at least for a little while. 

The Holden Equinox has spent the past six months parked out the front of my house, with a whole lot of driving too. The Holden Equinox has spent the past six months parked out the front of my house, with a whole lot of driving too.

To suggest the Equinox has a big role to pay at Holden is a massive understatement. The SUV segment (though now starting to decline along with the rest of Australia’s new-car market), remains still a hugely popular one, and the mid-size category does about the best business of the lot. 

But that popularity has bred intense competition, and the five-seat Equinox has to battle with cars like the Mazda CX-5, the Toyota RAV4 and the Nissan X-Trail, all of which sell in big numbers.

Onto this congested battle field charges the Equinox, and it's fair to say it has some catching up to do. The August VFACTS sales figures show the Toyota notching up 2006 sales, the Mazda securing 1797 sales, and the X-Trail finding 1743 buyers. The Equinox? Just 306 found homes in August. 

And honestly, that feels like madness. I'm not suggesting it should lead the sales charts, but that is a staggeringly low number, and one that probably should be higher.

The LT trim level packs a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine good for 188kW and 353Nm. The LT trim level packs a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine good for 188kW and 353Nm.

The LT trim level we’ve been driving packs a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine good for 188kW and 353Nm. And yes, a four-cylinder engine might not sound like a lot of engine to haul a car the size of the Equinox around, and I wasn't excited by the sound of it initially, but actually it’s one of the Holden’s most endearing features.

A rocket ship this ain’t, but those number sail into hot hatch territory, and they give this five-seater a slightly raucous (you’ll even get those front tyres spinning when you're too heavy with your right foot) attitude that belies its SUV dimensions.

Another bonus is the massive boot, an area in which the Equinox largely hoses its competition. The side-profile of the Holden looks a little off, yes, with a kind of square-edge extension built over the back tyres that looks like it could house a third tow of seats. 

It doesn't, but what it does do is bump up the cargo capacity of the boot space. There's 846 litres on offer, which beats the Mazda CX-5, Nissan X-Trail and Mitsubishi Outlander. 

It’s easy to think of SUVs as only really suitable for two types of buyers; those with big and bushy beards who like to beat the countryside into submission every weekend, or for families with plenty of kids and stuff to lug about. 

My wife and I don’t fall into either of those groups (though we do treat our dog an awful lot like a human child), and yet we found ourselves taking advantage of that massive boot space almost every weekend, taking more trips away than we perhaps ever have before.

The other real boon is the standard safety kit, which offers blind-spot monitoring, a rear-view camera, parking sensors, rear cross-traffic alert, AEB, lane departure warning and lane keep assist, six airbags an dual ISOFIX attachment points in the rear, all included in the $36,990 asking price.

Short answer? The Equinox might not be perfect in every way, but there’s plenty of standard kit, tons of safety stuff and enough practicality perks to make it worthy of a test drive.


The Wrap

Verdict and scores will be provided at the end of the 6 month period.

Likes

Plenty of cargo-carrying space
Cushy ride makes suburbia a breeze
Standard safety kit strong at this trim level

Dislikes

Looks are polarising
Gearbox can feel slower than a wet week
Multimedia graphics old school

Scores

Andrew:

3.8

The Kids:

3.8

$36,990

Based on new car retail price

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